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Background Buildings – Preserving Historic Contexts

July 21, 2021 @ 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm PDT

Free – $15.00


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Background Buildings – Preserving Historic Contexts

AIALA Committee: Historic Resources

This is a virtual event. Zoom log-in information will be emailed to registrants 24 hours in advance from events@aialosangeles.org. If you do not receive a confirmation 24 hours prior to the event, please email events@aialosangeles.org.

CES Learning Units: 1 LU

In sync with the relaunch of the AIA Los Angeles Historic Resources Committee and a refocused mission centered on Adaptive Reuse (historic preservation that is future oriented), this inaugural event brings together four distinguished panelists listed below to bring attention to both “Background Buildings” that define the character of Downtown Los Angeles, as well as the forthcoming Downtown Community Plan Update (DTLA 2040) that will incentivize their preservation. In addition to learning about “Background Buildings” and DTLA 2040, attendees will also be presented case studies of recent projects that exemplify the latest efforts to preserve and celebrate “Background Buildings.” Finally, attendees will also be invited to engage the panelists during a Q&A.


Karin Liljegren, FAIA – Principal + Founder, Omgivning
Karin Liljegren has dedicated her career to revitalizing downtown Los Angeles’s rich stock of existing buildings. In 1999, she worked on the very first projects under Los Angeles’s Adaptive Reuse Ordinance, which launched her nuanced understanding of the challenges and opportunities of adaptive reuse. Karin is a thought leader in the downtown community and is active with city and county officials in crafting policies that ease the challenges of working on existing buildings. Her design projects breathe new life into the buildings and communities. Her impact created the return of historic downtown Los Angeles as a livable, walkable neighborhood. Karin founded Omgivning in 2009. The firm puts new life to underutilized buildings transforming them into hotels, multifamily housing, oces, restaurants, and bars. Omgivning has grown and expanded having touched more than 400 buildings in Downtown Los Angeles. In 2014, the firm received a Presidential Honoree award for an Emerging Practice from the AIA Los Angeles. Karin was made a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 2020.


Ken Bernstein – Principal City Planner, Office of Historic Resources and Urban Design Studio, Los Angeles City Planning
Ken Bernstein is a Principal City Planner for the Los Angeles Department of City Planning, where he leads the department’s Office of Historic Resources (OHR). He serves as lead staff member for the City’s Cultural Heritage Commission, has overseen the completion of SurveyLA, a multi-year citywide survey of historic resources, and has led the creation of a comprehensive historic preservation program for Los Angeles. He is also currently overseeing the Department’s Urban Design Studio and has previously directed other policy planning initiatives, including work on Community Plan updates, housing policy, and transportation planning. He previously served for eight years as Director of Preservation Issues for the Los Angeles Conservancy, the largest local non-profit historic preservation organization in the U.S. He has a Master’s Degree in Public Affairs and Urban and Regional Planning from Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs, and a B.A. in Political Science from Yale University. He is the author of Preserving Los Angeles: How Historic Places Can Transform America’s Cities, published by Angel City Press in 2021.


Kyle Burnham – Preconstruction Manager, Swinerton
Kyle Burnham is a preconstruction manager with Swinerton’s OCLA Special Projects division. Swinerton’s dynamic Special Projects divisions tackle a wide range of projects, including complex interiors, tenant improvements, adaptive reuse, and seismic retrofitting jobs. Kyle started his career with Swinerton in 2010 and has contributed on a variety of public and private projects in both an operational and preconstruction capacity. Since 2016, Kyle plays a key role and actively manages Swinerton’s portfolio of adaptive reuse / retrofit work in the greater Los Angeles / Orange County regions with a renewed focus on the preconstruction efforts leading up to the successful development of these projects. Kyle holds Bachelor and Master of Science in Civil Engineering degrees from the University of Southern California. Kyle is a registered professional civil engineer in California.

Marc Cucco – Senior Vice President, Urban Offerings, Inc.
Marc is an SVP at Urban Offerings, where he is responsible for all aspects of real estate development. He has worked on a variety of product types over his fifteen year career, including creative office, mixed-use, urban infill, and multifamily development. He is currently the executive in charge of over $300 million of development in Los Angeles, and actively involved in the acquisition, entitlement, permitting, delivery and leasing of Urban Offerings’ largest projects. Prior to Urban Offerings, Marc worked at Gensler Los Angeles as a Senior Designer and was responsible for the design and delivery of numerous creative and corporate office buildings in Southern California. Marc holds a Master of Real Estate Development from the University of Southern California, a Master of Architecture from Yale University and a Bachelor of Architecture from the University of Texas at Austin.


Moderated By:

Gabriel Cervantes, AIA – Principal, SmithGroup
Gabriel Cervantes, AIA, is a Los Angeles native and Principal with SmithGroup, a national A&E firm with a local presence in DTLA and has over 25 years of experience with a primary focus on Research and Higher Education projects. Gabriel can think of no better place to practice architecture than Los Angeles; on the one hand, a setting welcoming to new forms of expression & experimentation. On the other, a rich presence of culture & history to awe. Being a member of the Historic Research Committee allows Gabriel to explore how these, at times conflicting dualities, be simultaneously embraced.


Saul D. Acosta, Assoc. AIA – Principal and Founder, DA Lighting Studio
Saul D. Acost, Assoc. AIA, MIES is a principal and founder of DA Lighting Studio, a local lighting design firm specializing in the art of lighting for the built environment. Saul is able to combine his love for architecture and technical lighting knowledge in the multitude of projects he gets to collaborate on. The AIA|LA Historic Resources Committee (HRC) presents an opportunity for Saul to explore our diverse cultural heritage and look for opportunities for the design community to contribute to the preservation and rehabilitation of our architectural landmarks.


Adam Ballard, AIA – Architect, Loescher Meachem Architects
Adam Ballard is an architect at Loescher Meachem Architects in Los Angeles. With a focus on adaptive reuse and creative workplace design, Adam is passionate about exploring the potential in the regeneration of the wide variety of spaces found within the existing urban fabric. Adam received a Bachelor of Architecture from Cal Poly Pomona in 2017 and went on to become licensed in 2020. Adam is a WELL AP and a member of the AIA and is an advocate for low-carbon design and equity in architecture.

Learning Objectives:
+ Participants will learn how reusing existing buildings can cut embodied energy and reduce a project’s environmental impact.
+ Participants will learn how to navigate the forthcoming Downtown Community Plan: DTLA2040, and how the forthcoming policy may be implemented in practice.
+ Participants will learn how architects and developers may be incentivized by the City of Los Angeles to work with existing buildings.
+ Participants will learn how to leverage effective teaming for delivering technically complex adaptive reuse projects.
+ Participants will learn the cultural significance of utilizing background buildings through redevelopment to create organic growth within communities.



July 21, 2021
5:00 pm - 6:30 pm PDT
Free – $15.00
Event Categories:



AIA|LA Historic Resources Committee
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